The burger: When chef Scott Pampuch took over at McKinney Roe earlier this summer and began to overhaul the menu, he encountered an immovable obstacle.
“It was basically the third rail of the burger conversation,” he said with a laugh. That’s because the restaurant’s Big Stag burger took home the top prize at the fourth-annual Twin Cities Burger Battle in 2017. Given that champion pedigree, this was one menu item that wasn’t going anywhere.
Still, Pampuch wanted to bump up the burger selection. That’s when chef de cuisine Niki Heber stepped in.
“He told me, ‘You can put whatever you want on the menu, and you can call it whatever you want, but I’m going to do a butter burger,’” said Pampuch.
And that’s what happened, with an emphasis on the word butter.
Not just any butter, but a compound butter, enriched with chives, parlsey and tarragon. There are three separate ways that Pampuch and Heber insert that colorful butter into this burger equation.
The first is with the onions. They’re thinly shaved sweet yellow onions, sweated low and slow on the stove in copious amounts of that butter.
Part two occurs when the patty is sizzling up a storm on the flat top grill. (It’s a half-pound of certified Angus beef, a thick, densely packed bruiser that conspicuously hangs over the edges of the not-so-small bun and is cooked precisely to order.) After the patty is flipped, a heaping helping of that aromatics-enriched butter is placed on top, dissolving into the meat as it finishes cooking.
Finally, the buns get a generous swipe of butter before being toasted on the flat top stove, next to the patties. (The golden, egg-enriched beauties hail from Franklin Street Bakery. “If it were a brioche, then it could be butter-times-four,” said Pampuch. “That’s not a bad idea.”)
“I’m glad we don’t have to measure and post the caloric intake on this one,” said Pampuch with a laugh. “I think it was Vincent [Francoual, chef/owner of the much-missed Vincent in downtown Minneapolis] who was once quoted as saying something like, ‘Butter is the reason why restaurant food tastes better than the recipes you cook at home.’”
Price: $14. Drop in during happy hour (3 to 6 p.m. weekdays) and the price drops two bucks. It’s a highly shareable burger (who can consume a half-pound of beef in a single sitting?), which leaves room in the budget for Pampuch’s utterly refreshing watermelon-roasted sweet corn salad (pictured, below), a beauty that's pretty much the embodiment of all that is good about August, on a plate.
Fries: Included, and strangely appealing. Pampuch inherited a prepackaged product, notable for its batter-like coating. Turns out, it’s not a wet batter but a blend of cornstarch and potato starch that’s dusted on the potatoes. The result is a puffed-up, extra-crispy exterior, one that Pampuch accentuates by holding them in the fryer a good 50 percent longer than the manufacturer recommends. “Nobody wants a soft French fry,” he said. “The amount of fries that we go through is insane. The cases weigh 20 pounds, and I go through four of them a day.”
Where he burgers: Pampuch’s burger imagination transports him to his hometown of Winona. “I still love the Lakeview Drive Inn, how can you go wrong with that?” he said. “They do chopped onions on the flat top with their burgers. I don’t know where that comes from, the whole chopped vs. sliced vs. shaved onion thing. Is it a White Castle thing? The chopped steamed onions with a burger? Anyway, the Lakeview isn’t pretentious, it’s not trying to win a Beard award. It’s summer, it’s fun.”
Address book: 530 S. 4th St., Mpls., 612-545-5863. Kitchen open 11 am. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday, 4 to 11 p.m. Saturday and noon to 10 p.m. Sunday.
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